How to climb the Kawah Ijen volcano without a guide

Kawah Ijen volcano, The One Who Wanders overlooking the lake which is one of the most acidic lakes in the world

Speechless. Seriously, that is the only emotion which can accurately describe how I felt sitting in the middle of the Kawah Ijen crater while overlooking the most acidic lake in the world and waiting for the sunrise.

Wanted: a new adventure!

I was longing to do something different and adventurous for a long time. So I decided to organize a motorbike trip from Bali to East Java to climb the Kawah Ijen volcano.

Me and my friends in the Gilimanuk harbour, West Bali

Me and my partners in crime boarding to Java.

2 other friends and I were pretty excited, but eventually after more than 3 hours driving to the harbor in Gilimanuk, we couldn’t wait to just be in the bed and rest a bit. Fortunately, a ferry to Java only takes 45 minutes (24.000 Rp one way).

Kawah Ijen volcano from the ferry

The One Who Wanders from the ferry, heading to Banyuwangi, East Java

Our first plan was to climb Kawah Ijen during the night on Sunday, but Sam, the manager of the hostel Kampung Osing Inn where we stayed, convinced us to do it just after we arrived. An alarm clock rang at 12 am, we jumped on our motorbikes and drove 1,5 hour from Banyuwangi to the base camp in the village of Paltuding. Driving through a forest on the curvy, narrow, but still well-maintained roads was exciting, even though my fingers started to go numb from the cold. I have no clue what the outside temperature was, but it felt like 0 degrees indeed – so don’t forget warm clothes! 

The smell of sulfur is dangerous to inhale.

At the volcano’s entrance ticket counter, I had my first local moment. I have a KITAS, or work permitt, which means I am almost a citizen of Indonesia, so I showed my Indonesian student card which rapidly reduced the entrance fee from 100.000 Rp to 5.000 Rp (during the weekends is the fee 150.000 Rp)!!! Even now I can’t believe it 🙂

No guide is needed for this volcano.

Just don’t forget a torch/flashlight, a proper gas mask, because the smell of sulfur will be strong and is dangerous to inhale. Make sure to follow the road. The first half of the hike is steep until you reach a canteen, after this point it’s only a few more steep meters before going flat for 800 meters. You’ll then be at the edge of the crater and will be able to see the famous Blue flames. They are magical.

Famous blue flames are only visible during the night

The Blue flames inside the crater.

Be extremely careful during the descend down to the crater, the terrain is slippery and rocky. To sum up, we started the climb at 2 am and it took us 1,5 hour to hike to the edge and descend down inside the crater.

The edge of the Kawah Ijen's volcano crater

Afterwards, we climbed up a bit inside the crater to the point where it is possible to overlook the whole lake. Even though, it was almost 4:30 am, the temperature wasn’t higher than 10 degrees. While the sun was rising, we slowly started to see the turquoise lake slightly covered by sulfur smoke. It was then that I realized what I had accomplished. It was a powerful moment for me.

The descend back to Paltuding took around an hour and it was then that the daylight showed us where we were actually climbing and just how dangerous it was.

The edge of the crater

At the edge of the crater.

At the edge of the crater.

The stratovolcanos in East Java

I consider this volcano less difficult to climb than Mount Batur in Bali.

The 1,5 hour back to Banyuwangi felt like the longest 1,5 hour of my life. Lack of sleep combined with a long hike was very exhausting. If you for some reason can’t drive a motorbike, you can hire a driver from Banyuwangi to Paltuding and find an accommodation there. My suggestion is to book in advance, places to stay have a limited amount of rooms which are often booked in advance.

The base camp in Paltuding from where we started the hike

The base camp in Paltuding from where we started the hike.

An unexpected bath in a waterfall? Why not?

Sam mentioned that just 15 minutes away was a small waterfall we might want to visit on the way back from Paltuding. The place was just so nice, surrounded by high trees with a bamboo bridge. Suprisingly, there was not just one waterfall but two! A good fresh bath in a waterfall can never be bad 🙂

A bamboo bridge and Jagir waterfall

I became obsessed chasing waterfalls

It was an absolutely stunning experience, to climb Kawah Ijen with a sky full of stars above, face the blue flames and catch a sunrise all making this trip very unique. In addition, I am so proud of us for doing it all on motorbikes!


  • Reply
    20. January 2016 at 18:01

    Looks like you had a great adventure and congrats for making it to the top! A couple of years ago I did Mt Kinabalu on Borneo and I’m ready for a new challenge 🙂

    • Reply
      Michel Struharova
      25. January 2016 at 7:48

      Thank you Lionell! Borneo is cool, my friends were there and we talked a lot about their adventures! In May I plan to climb to do some more in Java 🙂 What is your new challenge?

      • Reply
        26. January 2016 at 16:33

        Hi Michel, well my life has just taken an unexpected change as my father passed away last Thursday… He was an even bigger traveler than I am, so in his memory I will have plenty of new challenges coming up. He would have wanted me to continue to travel and see the world.

        • Reply
          Michel Struharova
          31. January 2016 at 10:18

          I am so sorry the hear that. Of course, see as much as it’s possible, he’ll take care of you from above.

          • Lionell
            1. February 2016 at 23:44

            Thank you so much for your kind words Michel. I’m sure he’ll watch over me wherever I travel. In April I will be taking my mom and brother to Bali and afterwards I will travel by myself to New Zealand and the Cook Islands. In September I’m heading to Malaysia and Cambodia, also taking my mom and brother with me as Malaysia was my dad’s second home. He fell in love with the country when he was living and working there years ago and his last wish was to have his ashes scattered there, so I’m making sure his wish will be granted.

  • Reply
    Menjangan a sever Bali: ako sme zapadli v džungli
    2. November 2016 at 6:47

    […] loďou k nemu bola zážitok. Obloha a okolité hory, dokonca aj sopka Kawah Ijen so sírovým jazerom v jej kráteri, kde som sa bola pred pár mesiacmi pozrieť. A koralový […]

  • Reply
    7 sopiek v Indonézii, ktoré musíte zdolať - LETENKY ZA BABKU
    4. February 2017 at 15:56

    […] Modré plamene vo vnútri krátera Kawah Ijen – By: Michaela Struhárová […]

  • Leave a Reply